Some P-bass History.....

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Deynn, Nov 5, 2000.

  1. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Last night my wife was watching "Rock around the clock" on the AMC cable channel. I wasn't paying much attention, until a group came on called "Freddie Bell and the Bellboys". That got my attention, becasue the bass player was playing a Precision bass. He was playing with his fingers and dancing around quite a bit.
    I believe that the bassplayers name was "Frank Brent". This was in 1956 and he must have been one of the first R&R bassists to use an electric bass. Does anyone know anymore about him....or who else was using a Fender around this time?
  2. Bernie


    Dec 12, 1999
    Cant help you much on this one as 56 was when i "came on the scene" so to speak but,back then most everybody that played electric bass used a Fender as there wasnt much anything else to choose from.Good luck!
  3. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Monk Montgomery, (Wes' brother) was playing electric around that time.

    Will C.:cool:
  4. I know Joe Osborn, and he was one of the first to play a Jazz Bass. Leo Fender gave Joe one of the first prototypes way back in the year ????, B4 I was born (a long, long time ago, ok 1959). I have pictures of myself somewhere with that bass on my workbench. It's got signatures of some of the people Joe's recorded with on it. Karen Carpenter (the Carpenter's recorded in Joe's home studio), Johnny Rivers (secret agent man), Neil Young, Merl Haggard, Neil Diamond, to name a few. Literally a who's who of 60's pop music. I was scared to work on his bass, because it's a bass that should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of fame!

  5. Jazz basses made the scene in 1960. Carl Perkin's brother played a P bass in Carl's backing band in 1956. His name was Jay, and that is the earliest footage I've ever seen of a P bass.
  6. Jerry Lee Lewis bass player (cousin/father-in-law!) also played a P bass way back. I'm not sure what year he would have started with the Fender since Jerry was playing with him before they hit big.
  7. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    You mean Jimmy Swaggart? :eek::D

    They actually are cousins, you know...

    Will C.:cool:
  8. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Mickey Giley is also their cousin!...:)
  9. Okay, you made me go look it up in his 1st wife Myra's book. Jerry's bass player was her father, Jay Brown. At quick glance through the book, it sounds like she first mentions him playing a Fender bass as far back as '56. It may have been sooner, but old pictures of him certainly show a version 2 P-bass (rounded corners, white pickguard and sunburst finish - or was it black?).
  10. I believe the first p-bass came out in '51. It didn't have the split humbucker though, it had a single coil much like a tele pickup, only for bass. Because of this, and a slightly different body design, it is also called a Telecaster bass. The first p-bass with a split humbucker like the ones on p-basses today I thik came out in '57. I hope that helps.

    Kenan Sugar O'Brien
    The Sound of the Police
  11. I think the very first ones were no-name, they had slab bodies with no contours. They then called them Precisions, and the Telecaster basses came later.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    In the "Bass Book" on page 13 it describes how they started work on th P Bass in 1948 and sold the first in 1951 - there is a picture of the Telecaster body bass which is the earliest known example which has a body dated October 30th 1951 and a neck dated November 20th 1951. This is next to an advert showing the bass with the heading "Precision Bass".

    It goes on to explain that countours and scratchplate were introduced in 1954, with colours from 1956. The more common look that we know today was introduced in 1957. Leo Fender applied for a patent for the bass in November 1952 and this was issued on March 24th 1953. It cost $199.50 at its introduction. Don Randall, who worked for Fender from 1948 is quoted as saying "For the Precision bass we pretty much followed the Telecaster shape."

    They go on to mention that the earliest player they can find is Roy Johnson of the Lionel Hampton band. "Down Beat" magazine of July 30th 1952 fetured a photograph of the band with a Precision bass. The article was entitled "Hamp-lified Fiddle may lighten Bassist's burdens!"

    The book then goes on to mention how Monk Montgomery took over from Johnson on the 1953 tour of Sweden and really made people notice the new electric instrument and there were lots of articles in papers with pictures of Monk with the bass. In an interview in 1980, Monk explained how Lionel Hampton had insisted he play electric bass and he objected, having brought along his double bass, Hampton said "then I'll just give you two weeks salary and your fare back home". Monk explained how Hampton liked the P Bass "Because he could hear the bass, really hear the bass. When there's an upright bass, you don't really hear it so much as feel it....I guess he liked that sound."
  13. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Bruce...Is that the "Bass book" Tony Bacon? I cnannot believe that I haven't as yet purchased this book, but that will be remedied today...:)
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes, well it says on the cover - "The Bass Book - An Illustrated history of the bass guitar by Tony Bacon & Barry Moorhouse."
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I started reading more of the bass book on Precisions and it made me think how funny it is that people aspire to owning a Telecaster-style example. There are more quotes in the book from Don Randall who worked on bass design for Fender from the 40s onwards. He explains how the main readon for the changes in 57, was because the better players had noticed that there were big problems with deadspots on the neck - particularly at the 7th fret on the 1st string. They (Fender) discovered that the larger headstock helped with this but that "we never did solve this completely." (p24) he laughs "a lot of people never found that out!"

    So they knew about deadspots on P basses in the 50s , but we still get regular questions about this today on TB and other internet forums! ;)
  16. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    In relating all of this terrific infromation, to my original post. It would appear that the bass player for the Bellboys was indeed, one of the first to incorporate the electric bass into Rock & Roll. If that IS true...I would have thought, that we might have heard more about him.
  17. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I think it's because throughout the 50s, the bass guitar was played pretty much like a string bass. It wasn't until the 60s that it started to get a unique identity. Listen to that old stuff and you hear the same root-five and quarter note walks that would have been played on a doghouse.

    Joe Osborne and Carol Kaye had a lot to do with creating a new "bass guitar" concept, interestingly both were guitar players who switched to bass and used picks. James Jamerson differed from previous guys like Monk Montgomery in that he developed a whole new approach to the bass when he switched over from upright. By 1965 or so, those three players were influencing bassists everywhere.

    You can't really point to anyone before Osborne, Kaye and Jamerson as having a big impact on the instrument. Don't forget when they took up the bass, it had only been around ten years.

    It's not much differnet than electric guitar history. Les Paul, Charlie Christian and T-Bone Walker may not have been the first three guys to ever use an electric guitar, but the way the instrument is played today can be traced back to those guys and noone remembers anybody who came before them.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This is like the story I outlined from the Bass Book - most people remember Monk Montgomery, but not that he was preceded by Roy Johnson in the Lionel Hampton group.
  19. b30307


    Nov 18, 2000
    Earliest example I know of is a photo of Blues Boy King ,( later known as B.B.King ) from 1954 in a small club .
    Unknown bassist has a P-Bass, ( playing thumb style .)
    Really , very few bassists had much interest in the new Fender bass from photos , films , and stories I've heard .
    Factory production totals of Fender , Gibson , Rickenbacker , etc. seem to prove this out . Think if you were a double bassist in the 50's and someone handed you a new P-Bass ; then said it was the wave of the future !
    Most major studios didn't fully switch over to electric until the mid 60's . Mainstream Jazzers have never really
    accepted it , or bluegrass players ! On straight blues gigs , the guy w/ the double bass is always the thought to be "the real deal" .
    I'm a rock player though , so I say "God bless Leo Fender ". Peace .

  20. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Jim Roberts quotes Peter Guralnick in the May '98 issue of Bass Player in saying that Bill Black played a P-Bass on 'Jailhouse Rock' by Elvis, which made it to #3 in 1957. This song is credited with being the first 'Major Hit' bringing the sound of the P-Bass to the multitudes...

    Have fun,